§ 2-1-21. Approval of director.
(a)(1) No person, firm, industry, company, corporation, city, town, municipal or state agency, fire district, club, nonprofit agency, or other individual or group may:
(i) Excavate; drain; fill; place trash, garbage, sewage, highway runoff, drainage ditch effluents, earth, rock, borrow, gravel, sand, clay, peat, or other materials or effluents upon; divert water flows into or out of; dike; dam; divert; change; add to or take from or otherwise alter the character of any freshwater wetland, buffer, or floodplain as defined in § 2-1-20 without first obtaining the approval of the director of the department of environmental management; or
(ii) Undertake any activity within a jurisdictional area, as defined in § 2-1-20, that may alter the character of the freshwater wetland, buffer, or floodplain without first obtaining the approval of the director of the department of environmental management.
(2) Approval will be denied if, in the opinion of the director, granting of approval would not be in the best public interest.
(3) Appeal from a denial may be made to the superior court following the exhaustion of administrative appeals provided through the administrative adjudication division established by chapter 17.7 of title 42.
(4) In the event of any alteration by a city or town of surface water impoundments used for drinking water supply, limited to maintenance within existing boundary perimeters of the impoundment, no approval shall be required; provided that the city or town advises the director at least twenty (20) days prior to commencing the maintenance work. The city or town shall advise the director in writing, describing the location and nature of the work, anticipated times of commencement and completion, and methods to be used to reduce adverse impacts on the freshwater wetland, buffer, or floodplain. The director shall advise the city or town of any concerns with the impact of the proposed maintenance on the freshwater wetland, buffer, floodplain or water quality.
(b) Whenever a landowner is denied approval to alter a freshwater wetland by the director under subsection (a), the landowner may elect to have the state acquire the land involved by petitioning to the superior court. If the court determines that the proposed alteration would not essentially change the natural character of the land; would not be unsuited to the land in the natural state; and would not injure the rights of others, the court shall, upon determining the fair market value of the freshwater wetland, based upon its value as a freshwater wetland, direct the state, if approval was denied by the director, to pay to the landowner the fair market value of the freshwater wetland. If the state declines the acquisition, the landowner may proceed to alter the freshwater wetland as initially requested. Any amount paid by the state shall be paid from any funds in the treasury not otherwise appropriated.
(G.L. 1956, § 2-1-21; P.L. 1971, ch. 213, § 1; P.L. 1974, ch. 197, § 2; P.L. 1981, ch. 17, § 1; P.L. 1983, ch. 9, § 1; P.L. 2015, ch. 218, § 1.)